Add another buzzed-about debut to your September reading list: The Gendarme, by Mark T. Mustian (Amy Einhorn Books).
It has a provocative premise: a 92-year-old man discovers he has a brain tumor that seems to be unlocking memories of his past as an Ottoman Army soldier during the Armenian genocide. Turns out he fell in love with, and spared the life of, an Armenian girl during that time, and despite his age and frailty, he's determined to go back to Turkey to find her.
The atrocities referred to in Mustian's book are still a point of contention today, as the Turkish government still considers it a crime to refer to the murders, arrests or mass deportations that took place between 1915 and 1918 as "genocide." Mustian traveled the route between Turkey and Syria that many Armenians were forced to travel by foot and without much food, and posted about the journey on his site. "Traveling paved highways in an air-conditioned van, I tried to imagine what it would have been like for old men, women, and children to make this journey on foot. . . . They would have had to leave almost all of their possessions behind. The sun would have been searing, the paths dusty and arduous and long. Water would have been scarce. Disease and lack of food and thievery would have taken their toll. . . . It was easy to see how many would have failed to survive it."
Library Journal says, "A first look suggests that the dreamlike, staccato language opens up into a moving but fiercely unsentimental book. Not for your lighter time-traveler readers; recommend to smart book clubbers in search of something intriguing and different."
Rights have already been sold in at least six countries, and the book's striking cover recalls National Geographic's "Afghan Girl."
Does learning more about this period of history interest you? Will you read?
One of the most time-tested ways of generating reader interest is asking a question (and yes, we're guilty of it at this blog!). Lately we at BookPage have noticed some doozies leading off the back cover copy of a few soon-to-be-released novels, and we have a question of our own: given a book's cover and title, can you guess which question it promises to answer? Share your score—or your favorite flap copy question—in the comments.
By now, most of you already know that Nashville was hit by massive amounts of rain over the weekend. At least 24 people have died in Tennessee, countless houses have been ruined and the mayor's office has announced that flood damage will probably cost the city at least $1 billion. Nashville institutions such as the Grand Ole Opry and the Schermerhorn Symphony Center suffered serious damages:
At BookPage, we were fortunate. Other than minor roof leaking, our office was not affected. A few staff members have seen minor home damage—and one editor went without electricity for four days—but by and large we are all lucky compared to others in our community.
There are many publishing companies, authors and people associated with the book business here in Nashville, and over the past few days they have provided updates about their staff and support for dealing with flood damage:
Spokesman Keel Hunt of the Ingram Book Company, located about 18 miles from Nashville in LaVergne, TN, reported, "There has been no flood damage at Ingram facilities, and no interruption in shipping or other services to Ingram customers"—although many employees have suffered losses from the flood waters affecting their homes.
Tommy Nelson, a blog from the kids division of book publisher Thomas Nelson, posted about helping children deal emotionally with natural disaster.
Local authors Amanda Morgan, Victoria Schwab and Myra McEntire have started a blog called "Do the Write Thing for Nashville." A description of their project: "Hey writers! We're raising money for flood relief in Nashville by auctioning off critiques and more from your favorite authors, agents, and editors."
Best-selling novelist Ann Patchett described the torrents in an op-ed piece for the New York Times, "Our Deluge, Drop by Drop." She writes: "The rain is over; what we’re left with is the life that follows weather. We’re waiting to hear if the water treatment plant is going to close, and when the public schools are going to reopen. There is a charming expression in the South—when someone says he’ll see you soon, you respond, 'God willing and the creeks don’t rise.' I finally get it."
Many of our staff members—not to mention fans and authors around the country—were looking forward to the Romance Writers of America Annual Conference at Gaylord Opryland this summer. Now, the venue looks like this:
RWA issued this statement on their website: "We at RWA are deeply saddened by the events in Nashville and the mid-Tennessee region, and we wish a speedy recovery to friends and businesses in the area. . . RWA has made arrangements to contribute a portion of our charitable donations from the 2010 Literacy Autographing event to Nashville Adult Literacy Council." The conference will be at Walt Disney World in Orlando.
The Nashville Public Library has a page on their site devoted to flood resources. We have inquired about damage at the libraries. I believe all branches are now open, although some are without phone service. The Second Saturday Booksale this weekend has been cancelled.
While reading the tragic stories of flood victims, I couldn't help but think about Jeffrey Jackson's book Paris Under Water, which I blogged about after hearing the author speak at Davis-Kidd Booksellers. Here's an excerpt from my post:
In Paris Under Water, Jackson explores how communities came together and, against all odds, saved Paris in the midst of collapsing infrastructure, looters and failed electricity and public transportation. Although media images from natural disasters typically represent chaos, Jackson explained that in uncontrollable, dangerous situations “people generally pull together. . . collaborate to save themselves.”
If you live in Nashville, how have you been affected by the flood? I think many of us turn to books when confronted with tragedy. If you have lived through natural disaster, can you recommend any books?
The owner of exclusive restaurants like Per Se and French Laundry, Thomas Keller always has a fresh take on classic cookery. Here, he puts his own twist on one of America's most iconic desserts with a recipe from the James Beard Award-winning, "approchable" new collection Ad Hoc at Home.
Here is another slightly quirky entry from the American tradition, pineapple upside-down cake. I have some affection for canned pineapple for nostalgic reasons, but we use fresh pineapple here for a more elegant dessert. Again, think of this as a general template that you can use for different fruits, and they all work wonderfully. We make what we call a “pan schmear” of butter and brown sugar, top it with the fruit, and pour the cake batter over the top. The recipe makes more schmear than you need, but it is difficult to make less. It will keep for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator, ready when you want to make another cake, or it can be frozen.
8 tablespoons (1 stick; 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon dark rum
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla paste or pure vanilla extract
1 Gold (extra-sweet) pineapple
1 1/3 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
8 tablespoons (1 stick; 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste or pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon milk
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
In the bowl of a stand mixer ? tted with the paddle, combine the butter, honey, rum, brown sugar, and vanilla and beat until smooth and well blended.
Spread one cup of the schmear over the bottom of a 9-inch silicone cake pan. Sprinkle lightly with salt. (The remaining schmear can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks or frozen for up to 1 month; bring to room temperature before using.)
Cut the top and bottom from the pineapple and cut away the peel. Cut the pineapple lengthwise into quarters, and cut off the core from each section. Cut each piece crosswise into J-inch-thick slices.
Beginning at the perimeter of the pan, make an overlapping ring of pineapple slices with the curved side facing out. Make a second ring inside the ?rst one, overlapping the slices in the opposite direction, working toward the center of the pan. Reserve any extra pineapple for another use.
Sift the ?our and baking powder together; set aside.
Put the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer ?tted with the paddle and mix on low speed to combine, then beat on medium speed for about 3 minutes, until light and creamy, stopping to scrape down the sides as necessary. Mix in the vanilla.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating until the ?rst one is incorporated before adding the second and scraping down the sides as necessary. Beat in the milk. Add the ?our mixture in 3 batches, beating just until combined.
Pour the batter into the pan and spread over the pineapple. Bake for 15 minutes.
Rotate the pan for even browning and bake for another 20 to 25 minutes, until a cake tester or wooden skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
Cool the cake in the pan on a cooling rack for 20 to 30 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the cake, invert onto a serving platter, and serve warm. (Leftover cake can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 days.)
Reprinted with permission from Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller, Artisan Books, 2009. Photo credit: Deborah Jones
Kate and her sister M. Sarah's latest picture book is called Stand Straight, Ella Kate: The True Story of a Real Giant. The subject of the book is Ella Kate Ewing, who was considered to be the world's tallest woman at her death in 1913:
Photo courtesy of the Circus World Museum, part of the Wisconsin Historical Society
Kate Klise first heard of Ella in Rural Missouri magazine, and she and her sister fell in love with the 8-foot-4 woman who used money from the circus to pay off her family's farm, build her own (big) house and see the world. Here's an excerpt from Klise's essay about how she researched and wrote the story:
I’m sure some people will read Stand Straight, Ella Kate as a when-life-gives-you-lemons, make-lemonade kind of story. And in a sense, it is. But to my mind, Ella’s story is a more universal story about growing up, literally, and how so often the things we dislike about ourselves as children, the things that make us different and cause people to laugh at us, are the very things that allow us to take extraordinary journeys. Click here to continue reading.
As a 5-foot-10 woman (since 5th grade!), I have to say that Stand Straight, Ella Kate really made me smile.
Will you share Stand Straight, Ella Kate with young readers? What are your favorite girl power picture books?
Recently I had an interesting packet in my mailbox from Debbie Macomber. Though we've popped up on many an author's mailing list, this one had some unusual inclusions that I thought were worth a mention.
First up, coupons. For a decent amount ($2) off Macomber's upcoming hardcover books. Here's the smart part: they're only valid during the first week of a book's release, when sales are especially crucial.
Next came stickers and a bookmark listing the dates of all of Macomber's 2010 paperback and hardcover releases. You're meant to put the stickers on your calendar, a nice touch.
Finally, there's a chatty, full-color newsletter that includes recipes, stories about Macomber's family, and news about upcoming books. This is perhaps the most typical item in the package, but it's well done and appealing.
Obviously mailing hundreds of envelopes full of $2 coupons is not the most efficient way for a new or midlist author to make it to the top of the bestseller list—but what about creating downloadable documents and sending out an e-newsletter containing links to items like these? That's something that most publishers—or even authors—could fit into their marketing budgets.
Anthropology of an American Girl by Hilary Thayer Hamann
May 25, 2010, Spiegel & Grau
Seven years later, the novel has been revised and republished with Random House imprint Spiegel & Grau. At 640 pages, it is a brick of a book, and my advice for you is to read with a pencil in hand, because you will want to remember sections of Hamann's rich prose as she chronicles the life of Eveline Auerbach through high school and college. Evie falls into a passionate, painful and even obsessive kind of love with Harrison Rourke, her high school's visiting drama coach. The excerpted scene takes place right after Evie has agreed to spend the summer with Rourke in Montauk:
It was there that I met myself, there that I discovered my soul’s invention, the feminine genius of me. I often thought about life beyond the summer, acknowledging that an end was imminent, that I needed to prepare. The world sloped against our door like a barren belly—I could feel it. Had I been sentenced to death, I could not have interpreted time with a fiercer consciousness—every twilight seemed to be the last, every rain the final rain, every kiss the conclusive aroma of a rose, gliding just once past your lips.
If he loved me, love wrought no change in him. He did not speak of such things, and neither did I, because words and promises are false, resolving nothing. I was an American girl; I possessed what our culture valued most—independence and blind courage. From the beginning he had been attracted to the savagery in me that matched the savagery in him, and yet, what bound us was the prospect of that soundness unraveled. I began to unlearn things I’d been taught. Often I was afraid, but my fear was a natural fear, a living fear, a fear of the unknown. I would not have exchanged it for a wasteland of security. It kept me vigilant through the night.
It seems like this has been the year of the book anniversary: Spot. Shrek. To Kill a Mockingbird. And now Carolyn Keene's Nancy Drew. The Secret of the Old Clock, book one in the iconic series, was published on April 28, 1930. . . meaning that, believe it or not, Nancy's officially 80.
After Justice Sonia Sotomayor mentioned Nancy during her Senate confirmation hearings, the New York Times ran an article titled "Nancy Drew’s Granddaughters." An excerpt from the piece:
[Sotomayor] has said that her Nancy Drew represented boldness and intelligence, the books a gift from a hardworking single parent. In recent years, Laura Bush, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Gayle King and Diane Sawyer have described themselves as fans.
How many of you are fans? Whether you grew up on the classic mysteries with the yellow spines or one of the many modern versions, I'd bet the phrase "blue roadster" means something to you. Or that at one point in you life you've asked friends if they identify more with Nancy, Bess (boy crazy/best-friend-on-a-diet) or George (tomboy). Or maybe you even tried to solve a mystery.
To commemorate this anniversary, Grosset & Dunlap has released a new cover for The Secret of the Old Clock. What do you think? (I'll always prefer the yellow spines—in the summer, I used to read one of those babies a day at the pool.)
Related in BookPage: The biggest fans should check out Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her by Melanie Rehak, a fascinating nonfiction book that provides a behind-the-scenes look at Nancy's origins.
On May 25, the winner of the Audio of the Year will be announced at the Audies Gala. Three finalists were chosen for their "excellence in production as well as by their ability to create new interest in the audiobook format through creative and innovative publicity and marketing." The three nominees are all worthy, but Patrick Swayze's memoir, The Time of My Life perhaps has the most poignant behind-the-scenes story. Producer Elisa Shokoff worked with Swayze on the recording during the last days of his life. Here's what she had to say about the experience.
Only a few days before Patrick's 57th birthday in late August, during what was the last month of his life, we began recording the audio version of his memoir. Although the recording became Patrick's final work, and we carried it out under the most unusual & difficult circumstances, it unfolded in the most usual way for Patrick. His well-known passion, intelligence and quest for perfection never dimmed. He was determined to finish the reading with his high standards intact. That determination informed everything we did. It was an exhilarating time.
We set up our equipment in his beloved music studio at the ranch he shared with Lisa Niemi on the edge of the Angeles National Forest in the San Fernando Valley. In the 10 x 12 studio were Patrick, sometimes Lisa, recording engineers Steven Strassman & Matt Cartsonis, two large (often sleeping & snoring) dogs--Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy Kuma & Standard Poodle Lucas, and me.
Together, we would begin at dusk and work late into the night. Before, in-between and after recording, it was clear that Patrick was gravely ill and in terrible pain. But when he was actually reading, the weight of his illness seemed to lift and it was easy to forget that he was even sick. A wonderful, kind, cowboy-storyteller emerged; full of life and humor and a heightened compassion. The resulting audiobook is a testament to the great and graceful performer that he was.
Read more about audiobooks in our monthly column.
Ice Cold is Tess Gerritsen's eighth book in the Rizzoli & Isles crime series, and if the trailer is any indication, this book will be creepy, adrenaline-pumping and a page-turner.
The novel follows Boston ME Maura Isles to the seemingly abandoned town of Kingdom Come, where she and some friends are stranded in a blizzard. Abandoned houses—with food still on the tables—are suspicious, and the group gets the feeling that someone is lurking in the darkness. After Maura's body is found in a ravine, homicide detective Jane Rizzoli comes to investigate the town's "twisted history". . .
Will you read Ice Cold, out June 29 from Ballantine? An icy thriller sounds about perfect for the heat of summer. . . and just in time for TNT's new Rizzoli & Isles series.
Also in BookPage: Browse our Tess Gerritsen archives.